I’m riding my bike across Iowa, along with at least 10,000 other folks.

RAGBRAI (the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) is the oldest and largest recreational bike tour in the world.  It started in 1973, and I first heard about it when I was a student at Grinnell College back in the 80′s.  I’ve had it in the back of my mind ever since.

Somehow, I got myself signed up this year.  I’m not quite sure how that happened, but off I go.

You can track my progress online, if you’re so inclined.  My location will be uploaded as connectivity permits (which won’t be very often).


Written: July 19, 2015, By Chris

Quick RAGBRAI overview.

  • RAGBRAI, Day 1.
    I promise I didn’t go 140mph, as Strava seems to think.  My top speed was 43mph on one of the downhills.  That’s the fastest I’ve ever gone on a bike.
  • RAGBRAI, Day 2.
    Gravel Loop Day. Rain in the morning, sunny and humid in the afternoon.  Soaking wet either way.  Day 2 was also Gravel Loop day.  I learned the hard way why my bicycle is called a “road bike”.
  • RAGBRAI, Day 3.
    Century day. On the way into Alden, there was a bridge missing.  Apparently, someone was worried that the old bridge wouldn’t handle ten to twenty thousand cyclists, so they went ahead with the replacement project.  There was a dirt & gravel walkway constructed from one side to the other, and riders had to get off of their bikes and walk across (not wide or smooth enough to ride).  Some of us (me included) chose to scramble down the bank of the unnamed creek, hop across rocks, and scramble up the other side.  I found myself in this Register photo (third from the right at the top of the hill, white helmet). My ride in France prepared me for this, I guess.

    It was windy and hot on the Century Loop, but my friend Tom and I helped one-another keep our spirits up.  We stopped for pie at a roadside stand run by an Amish family.

  • RAGBRAI, Day 4.
    The “easy” day.  I rode a couple of extra miles at the end of the day, just to make sure I’d completed 100km.  I rate the overnight towns by their showers.  Good showers at the University of Northern Iowa.  Rachel and I went on our first official date here.  We saw Fleetwood Mac play at the UNI Dome.
  • RAGBRAI, Day 5.
    My memory of this particular day on the ride are remarkably weak.  My notes say that it was a hot and sunny day, but apparently I didn’t stop much and didn’t spend enough time getting to know the towns.
  • RAGBRAI, Day 6.
    I left Hiawatha by following a cycling trail through a nature preserve.  It wasn’t clear to any of us whether this was part of the official route or not, but I didn’t lose any distance by taking the trail so I figured it was okay.  Mount Vernon is where Cornell College (not that Cornell, that Cornell!) is located.  A really pretty town.  The rain hit hard by the time I got to Solon, so I waited there for a while, and then decided I could handle a little rain and rode on.  There was thunder off in the distance.  Some of it quite loud, but I kept counting the time between the lightning and the thunder and figured it was far enough away that I was still safe.  We rode through some beautiful but hilly country on the way to Coralville.  Someone stopped in front of me at the foot of a particularly hefty climb, and I wound up walking my bike up the hill.  That was the only time, but given how wet and how steep it was, it was probably for the better.  We rode into town amid much fanfare.  The route guided us into the midst of the business district with all of the vendors set up.  I should have been annoyed, I guess, but I actually enjoyed being greeted in such an enthusiastic way.
  • RAGBRAI, Day 7.
    From Coralville out through Iowa City and another gauntlet of vendors trying to make the most of the last day.  They were available, but were not in the way, which was pleasant.  A very fast day, with some very nice descents as we headed toward the river.  There were two annoyances at the end.  We arrived at the dip-site, but the route took us an extra couple of miles in a big loop that had us looking at, but not able to reach, the Mississippi River.  …and then there were no showers.  Ick.


Written: August 15, 2014, By Chris

The long, straight, and typically empty Iowa roads were crowded with bicycles. We took up both lanes, and anyone foolish enough to drive a car or truck into our midst found themselves moving at about 12mph (19-ish kph).

Here I am at the side of the road sporting my Samba Team jersey (with the old-school logo).

  • 490 miles (788km) over 7 days
  • Five metric centuries (≥100km/day)
  • One century (≥100mi/day)
  • More pie, pork chops, and sports drink consumed than I can measure.

By the way, Iowa is not flat.  It has gently rolling hills, which are beautiful when you are riding in a car, and a constant challenge when you are on a bike.  There’s also the wind…

Walter Lemon

Written: July 8, 2014, By Chris

I just wanted to share this picture:

The view; Watermelon Ride

The view; Watermelon Ride

I rode about 59 miles on a warm and windy 4th of July. It was an organized ride—the Watermelon Ride—run by the Twin Cities Bicycle Club.

The ride started  started in the northern suburbs, went through a nature preserve, neighborhoods full of lakeside homes, out through new developments (you could still smell the vinylcide), through older developments, and out into the countryside before turning back. Grumpy Old Men territory.

Take Care the Trail You Choose

Written: June 20, 2014, By Chris

In 2007, Highway 35W dropped onto the bike trail that I had used for commuting to work at the University of Minnesota.

Almost seven years later, and a little further south, that same trail was hit again.  On June 19th 2014, during a record-breaking day-long rainfall, a mudslide blocked both the bike path and the road along the west side of the Mississippi River.

That’s my commute route.

I hadn’t heard about the mudslide, so when I saw the detour signs this morning (June 20th) I figured that it was just that the water was high.  I found another route to work.


Written: August 6, 2012, By Chris

White, pink, and brown skin.

Neopolitan tan lines

Neopolitan:  Vanilla, Strawberry, Chocolate.

A couple of weekends ago I went on a 49 mile bike ride in the sun and heat.  I got a bit of a sunburn on my arms, but it soon darkened into a nice brown tan.

This past weekend, I went out again.  My tan protected me to some extent but, as you can see from the picture, the jersey I wore had slightly shorter sleeves than the one I wore last time.

So my upper arm is still pasty Minnesota white, then there’s a stripe of pink, then brown.